On May 5th, a very special soccer tournament took place in Jerusalem between refugees and asylum seekers from the Holot detention facility and Jerusalem, and was attended by fans of the Ha'Poel Katamon soccer team.
The participants received t-shirts with the slogans “Refugees Welcome” and "No one is IIllegal,” which they proudly wore during the games. Once the tournament was over, everybody enjoyed a lunch provided by the Jerusalem African Community Center.
This important event was initiated by the newspaper created by and for the fans of Ha'Poel Katamon’s, including two young men from Jerusalem, Assaf and Nerya, fans who volunteer with refugees in Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv.
Assaf, who volunteers at the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants in Tel Aviv, told us about the many challenges that went into organizing the event.
"Until the very last minute we weren’t even sure that the refugees from the Holot detention facility in the Negev would show up.
A week prior to the event, all cellular reception in the area was disconnected, and we weren’t able to communicate with our contacts there. We were worried that they might have forgotten about the event or assume that it was canceled. But in the end, all was well and many people showed up."
Nerya, who volunteers at JACC, spoke about the fan's reaction to this initiative.
"Our idea was well-received by the other fans, many of whom came to the tournament and were very happy to take part in this initiative. After it was over, we all went together to watch a Ha'Poel Katamon game. We won 6-1 that day, so we all got to see a really good game together.”
And who won?
Nerya says that a team of refugees from Jerusalem, who named their team "the Jerusalemites", won the tournament. "They were way better than the other groups. They practice together every Friday at Saker Park in Jerusalem on Fridays, and they even had their own uniform. It was very nice to see that when they got their trophy, they dedicated it to the friends at Holot."
When asked if the event could be considered a success, Assef told us that,
“Eventually, we had two main goals. One was to organaize a fun day for the detainees from Holot, and the second was to bring together Africans and Israelis so they would be able to get to know each other. I believe that eventually we accomplished both these goals. An important lesson I would like to implement next year would be to mix the teams. That way the relationships will deepen even further."
Thank you very much for your wonderful initiative, and we look forward to next years' tournament!